Known for ‘putting the world on wheels’, The Henry Ford Museum, and an International Speedway, the US state of Michigan is taking its ardor for automobiles to the next level.
The state has approved plans for a private company to develop a 40 mile highway corridor specifically for autonomous vehicles. The project has sparked enthusiasm and excitement among innovators, futurists and public officials, but it has also raised concerns among tech and infrastructure experts.
The company operating the project will survey Greater Detroit’s interstate 94 within the next two years. They will then determine whether or not existing road shoulders can be converted into autonomous-only tracks, or whether new lanes are required.
At first, only autonomous mass transit vehicles will use the lanes. Other types of vehicles will be introduced as conditions allow. The project will ultimately connect the University of Michigan to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and downtown Detroit.
The controversies surrounding this autonomous vehicle plan:
- The bulk of the endeavor will be bankrolled by subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, as opposed to the State of Michigan.
- Public roads that are paid for via taxes may fall under the control of a single private entity.
- “You’re locking into that design and locking into that use case…The dedicated lanes are not something that’s being put forward by transportation advocates…” says one infrastructure expert.
The State of Michigan is eager for this pilot project to serve as a model for other regions. Tech firms and autonomous vehicle enthusiasts are excited about this project for obvious reasons. But will it really serve the interests of the public? Better transportation access, speed and safety?
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